Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Saving Grace

John Kerry would be only the second American president of the Roman Catholic faith. The first, of course, was John F. Kennedy. Kennedy's election was a moment of great celebration among American Catholics and among the Church hierarchy -- Boston's Cardinal Richard Cushing was particularly close to the Kennedy family -- even though Kennedy had made it clear on the campaign trail, rebutting an anti-Catholic hate campaign, that he would not be taking policy instructions from the Vatican. In 1960, this was a major issue, and many of Kennedy's opponents contended that he'd be a tool of the pope. Today, however, the Catholic Church hierarchy is coolly distant to Kerry, who is, if anything, a more strictly observant Catholic than Kennedy was. Today's Church leaders are actually demanding what Kennedy insisted was a slander -- that an American president should take policy direction from the Vatican. But Kerry has also made clear, rather more politely than Kennedy did, that he will not be an...

Three Nightmares

America could well face a constitutional crisis this November over two back-to-back, discredited presidential elections. Nightmare No. 1: Florida Again We've already seen another round of crude efforts to purge the Florida rolls of felons, some of whom aren't felons at all. We will see a lot of intimidation of African-American Florida voters, too. Almost every Democratic operative I speak to takes it for granted that the Bushies, led in this case by Governor Jeb, will try to "steal" Florida. But that's only the first of the election nightmares. Nightmare No. 2: Touchscreen Hell Given the refusal of Republicans to allow federal legislation requiring verifiable paper trails for electronic voting devices that are still far too buggy, it's a near certainty that some will malfunction -- and that there will be no recourse. Moreover, a lot of older and less well-educated people have trouble comprehending touchscreens. It's also possible that there could be some deliberate tampering. But even...

Ah, Unity

The 2004 Democratic convention is a study in both discipline and in self-discipline. That makes it a refreshing rarity. Not only does the official program offer both consistency of message and a great variety of voices and styles; the restive Democratic base has been admirably, almost eerily, self-restrained. Advocates of universal health care may wish that John Kerry had embraced a single-payer plan, and peace activists may wish that he had renounced his vote for the Iraq War. But this year, everybody here is a realist, and there is no sniping at the nominee. The stakes are just too high. This self-restraint was not the case in such years as 1948, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, or 2000 -- and the party often paid the price. Polls suggest that most individual delegates to this convention are to the left of Kerry on the issues. But the delegates, and even most of the cause activists in town, are adopting a both/and strategy: First, let's get the ticket elected; then, let's keep on...

Sheer Eloquence

Bill Clinton's address Monday night had to be one of best political speeches I've ever heard him -- or anyone -- give. He managed to be both masterful and self-deprecating. The riff about George W. Bush cutting this program and that program so that Clinton, the nouveau riche, could keep his tax cut was just brilliant. Likewise his deft inclusion of himself among the draft avoiders of his generation, such as Bush and Dick Cheney, while John Kerry said, "Send me." The observation that "strength and wisdom are not opposing values" was pure Clinton, an elegant insight that reminds us what a fool George W. Bush is without actually saying so. The rest of the speech, too, was superbly balanced in striking a largely affirmative tone, but leaving little doubt that Bush had made a mess of the country. Somehow, Clinton managed to be both momentous, and lighthearted. And, while taking ample credit for eight good years, he left no doubt that the speech was about Kerry. Indeed, it was a fine...

Financially Competitive?

While Democratic delegates and party notables are attending receptions and visiting Boston's sights, fund-raisers for independent-expenditure committees are trawling for dollars. The McCain-Feingold bill of 2002 really did transform politics, though not in a way that anybody predicted. It ended the era of unlimited donations to parties, while permitting endless donations to independent groups. (These groups are known as “527s,” after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that authorizes them.) At first, before the original McCain-Feingold bill was watered down, reformers actually hoped that it would reduce the role of money in politics. Then, when the compromise bill passed, allowing unlimited donations to 527s, Democrats groused that the result would increase the Republican advantage, as Republicans ultimately have more money than Democrats and Republican-leaning 527 groups can presumably outspend Democratic ones. But then something funny happened. Progressive fund-raisers got...

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